• Major Holidays





What is Purim

Purim celebrates the salvation of the Jews from Haman’s decree of annihilation as described in the Scroll of Esther. This very joyous holiday is celebrated by publicly reading the Scroll of Esther, eating festive meals, giving charity to the poor, and giving food packages to friends and family. During a leap year, when a second month of Adar is added to the Hebrew calendar, Purim is celebrated in the second Adar.

When is Purim

Adar 14 or 15

In Jerusalem and other "walled" cities the holiday is celebrated on the 15th



Source and Origin of Purim

Commandments (Mitzvot) of Purim

There are 4 primary commandments that are fulfilled on Purim. These all start with the letter M in Hebrew, so they are easy to recall: Megillat Esther, Mishloach Manot, Matanot L’Evyonim, Mishteh.

  • Megillat Esther (Reading the scroll of Esther) – The Megilla is read both during the initial Maariv, evening service in the synagogue, and the next morning during the Shacharis service. Written on parchment, similar to a Torah Scroll, the Megilla is read out loud to the whole congregation by a person experienced in both the precise tune and also the technical Hebrew words written in the Megilla. It is customary to make noise using available devices whenever the name of Haman (the wicked character in the story), is mentioned during the reading. The noisemaking serves as a way to blot out the evil of Haman, and the nation Amalek that he was a part of.
  • Mishloach Manot (Delivery of Packages) – Packages containing ready-made food are given as gifts between close friends and family. This is both to increase friendship and also to ensure that everyone has enough food for the Purim meal. The basic obligation is to send 1 gift, containing 2 food items, to one other person. Though it is common for multiple Mishloach Manot to be gifted, in addition to containing elaborate designs or food items.
  • Matanot L’Evyonim (Charity to the Poor) – There is a Mitzvah to give two charitable donations, to two separate poor people. These are given on the day of Purim. Throughout Purim people are usually more generous and donate more charity than they otherwise would during the year. This is in line with the Talmudic dictum, “Anyone who stretches out their hand, give to him.”
  • Mishteh (The Purim Meal) – This is a festive meal, similar to the meals held on Shabbos and the festivals. There is a festive atmosphere and it is customary to consume alcohol in moderation.
  • Fast of Esther – On the day before Purim, the 13th of Adar, a minor fast day is observed. According to some, this fast, called the Fast of Esther, recalls the fast that Esther declared before she confronted King Ahaseurus. Others say that is a commemoration of the fast observed by the Jews as they fought for their lives on the 13th of Adar.

Customs of Purim

  • Fancy dress – There is a widespread custom to dress up in costumes. The idea is perhaps based on the nature of the Purim story, where the was a total transformation from a potential genocide to salvation. In light of this, we also dress up and transform ourselves. Alternatively, we dress up and ‘hide’ ourselves, to show how God’s hand was also hidden during the Purim tale.
  • Drinking Alcohol – It is customary to drink alcohol even to the point of intoxication. Though Rabbinic authorities encourage caution and moderation in this practice.
  • Purim in Jerusalem – The Talmud in explaining the Bible, draws a distinction between walled cities and non-walled cities from the time of the Biblical figure Joshua. Non-walled cities celebrate Purim on the 14th of Adar, while walled cities do so on the 15th. Most authorities hold that today Jerusalem is the only city that qualifies for the walled-city status. Many people in Israel living outside of Jerusalem utilize the 15th to travel to the city to celebrate with its inhabitants.

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